Osgoode class of 1963 medals awarded 46 years after graduation

It’s never too late to correct an oversight. 

With that thought in mind, Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Patrick Monahan used the occasion of the law school’s Annual Alumni Reception on May 20 at Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto to award academic medals – 46 years after the fact – to four top graduates of the class of 1963.

Hartley Nathan, a partner at Minden Gross LLP, received the gold medal. Don Brown, a partner emeritus at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP, was awarded the silver medal. Gerald Adler, who retired from professional practice in 2002, and Don Matheson, a partner at Gowlings Lafleur Henderson LLP, tied for bronze medals.

Above: From left, Gerald Adler, Hartley Nathan, Osgoode Hall Law School Dean Patrick Monahan, Don Matheson and Don Brown

For the classmates who endured endless jocular remarks over the years about being “the no medals class,” it was a sweet moment indeed. “How did I feel?” Nathan asked rhetorically. “Ecstatic, to say the least, and especially pleased that my wife, children and grandchildren were present to see me receive the medal.” 

Monahan, who was the gold medallist for the class of 1980, noted that every Osgoode graduating class since the school’s founding in 1889 – except the class of 1963 – has awarded medals for outstanding academic achievement. However, because of a complicated set of "fine print" conditions that applied to the medal-awarding rules in 1963, no students qualified that year.

Monahan heard about the situation from alumni at the class of 1963 45th reunion last year. He asked Professor Emeritus Robert Gray, who was a member of the Osgoode faculty in 1963 and a participant in the decision-making at the time, to prepare a report on the matter.

“There is a strong case to be made that the members of the class of 1963 were the victims of a bureaucratic wrong,” Gray wrote in his detailed account of that year’s medal drought. “I think it is safe to say that nobody trying to operate under these rules clearly grasped the possible permutations lurking within them. They were complicated, arcane and, occasionally, in the eyes of those attempting to follow them, produced (as in the case of the class of 1963) very bizarre, unhappy and, seemingly, unfair results.”

Gray noted that Osgoode Faculty Council subsequently repealed the ‘"fine print" conditions and replaced them with the present, straightforward rule: Medals go to those whose three-year, cumulative academic records rank, respectively, first, second and third, which is how the class of 1963 medallists were finally chosen.

The names of the class of 1963 medallists will now be engraved on a master plaque at the law school. Monahan said he also intends to write the treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada to request that the society’s plaque also be updated.